Training with Couch to 5K + three tips for new runners

February 6
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Last year I decided to challenge myself to do somethingI had never done before. Run a 5K. I know A 5K isn’t very far, but I was out of shape and for sure not a runner. I challenged myself to this because although I knew it was an obtainable goal, it was something that I could not just get up and do. I had to train, practice, and take my time to get there.

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Now that I have run the full 3.1 miles of a 5k a few times, I wanted to fill you all in on the process, the app, and how I felt going from nothing to being a runner.

First off, I tried a few apps before I found one that really worked for me. Most people start their running training running intervals, the first apps I tried had me jumping into 2+ minute run intervals right from the start. I was out of shape, remember? This was so not for me.

After doing some research I downloaded the 5K Runner app by Fitness22. Is this the only app that will work? No way. It is just the one that worked for me. I ended up paying around $10 for access to the entire program. Inexpensive price to pay for the tools to turn myself into a runner.

With the app you run three times a week for eight weeks. By the end of the program you should be able to run 35 minutes straight which is a good 5k time. (My time is slower.) In week one you just start out by running for one minute and taking a minute and a half off. Each time the longest run distance got longer I was worried I would not be able to do it, but I did. It was just enough push.

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I posted this on Facebook on Christmas day when I successfully ran 23 minutes straight.

The first few runs I did with my phone in my hand. That quickly got old and I grabbed this running belt which is now a necessity for me. I use the belt to hold my keys, phone, and anything else I might carry.

For shoes I wore the shoes I already had. I did end up going to the Nike Outlet and grabbing a new pair last month, but I have not felt the need to be fitted for running shoes yet. If I ever start having foot-related problems I’ll go to the local running shop and have them help me pick a better shoe.

So, how was it?  To be completely honest the process was not fun. I did not like running when I started and I still do not like running. Do I still do it? Yes. Why? Because I love continually showing myself that I can do it. But it was doable. It was never too hard.  I am still running and I am running in a “real” 5k later this month. My goal is to continue running for all of 2019 and run a 10k before the end of the year. Will I keep up with the sport after that? I am not sure. We will let time decide.

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The best part of running? Experiencing great sunsets.

I do have three tips for those of you considering this program.

  1. Go slow: I wish someone had told me this before I started. Run slower than you think you even can. This is a mind game and as long as you are running and not walking you’re winning. Worry about going fast later, or never.
  2. Watch your breath: Remember those deep breaths we took in yoga? Bring them out. Ok, maybe not that deep, but be aware of your breath and take longer rather than shorter breaths. Your lungs will thank me.
  3. Just do it: Sorry to rip of Nike here, but this is really what it comes down to. Get dress, lace up, and run. Once you are dressed and ready just go and do it. It is easier to go run than complain and stall going.

I hope this helped those of you curious of the program as well as those wondering about my experience.

Have you run a 5k before? Would you do one now?

Using a digital calendar

January 28
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If you read my post about my 2019 planner plans, you would have learned that for the first time I am adding a digital calendar to the mix. I have always been a pen and paper kind of girl, but lately I’ve been looking for an easy way to have all the details at my fingertips all the time. To achieve this I have started using Google Calendar to create a calendar that I have access to at home, work, and on the go. With it, I can leave my work planner at work, my home planner at home, and still know what I am doing and when. Will this replace my planners? No. I love my planners for to-dos, notes, and more; the Google Calendar is just a place to save information and dates so my schedule is always easy to find when making plans.

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So how do I use it?

I love that Google Calendar is available in both the web and on my phone. I keep a tab open on both my home and work computers with the calendar so I can quickly add work and personal events as they come up. This is linked to my phone, so when I am out and about I can quickly check my phone and see if I am available for an event or get-together.

I am changing the way I record events and appointments a little bit. Before, I would wait until I was next to my planner and then add events there. Now, as soon as I receive an invitation in the mail or schedule a meeting, I add it to my digital calendar. Then when I sit down with my planner on Sunday I add all events for the week there. This had led to me skipping using the monthly layout in my personal planner which is working for me. (Now I use it for blog planning.)

The other upside of this is the sharing options; with Google Calendar you can share calendars with others. Right now I am not using this feature, but in the future I’d love to set this up to share with my husband. This feature would also be great for parents of teenagers.

 

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I started this venture using the iCal app on my phone with the google calendar synced, but I have started using the actual Google Calendar App to access my calendar on my phone and I love it. This app gives a full view of the month and the events whereas the iCal App just shows dots on days you have calendar items. I am also considering trying out Fantastical which is a paid app ($5) that is said to be a much better calendar interface along with an great watch app.  I will report back once I have tried that one out.

I know many people have been using phone and digital calendars for years, but I wanted to take a few moments to share how I have integrated this style of “planning” with my planner. I know this sounds super simple, but it is new for me and really working well.

 

Do you use a digital calendar?  Which one? How to you integrate that with your planner?

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Drinking more water (part 2)

January 6
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A few years ago, I wrote a blog post about tips for drinking more water and I feel like it is time to talk about it again. I have seen a ton of people both in person and online talking about how they want to drink more water this year and I figured I could share more about how I drink 70+ ounces of water a day.

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I get my water consumption in via both “chug sessions” and sipping throughout the day. I know ” chug sessions” sounds weird, but that is just what it is. I fill a glass at the sink with room temp water and chug the entire glass, sometimes two. I know for a lot of people this sounds horrible, but it gives me a chance to get it done. I just stand there and drink. (For those of you wondering, WATER is the only thing I drink this way. I could not chug a beer if my life depended on it.) I like using room temp water as it goes down easy and does not chill my body. I try to do this a few times a day with the most important chug sessions right after I wake up and right before bed.

My second method of drinking (WATER, people) is throughout the day. I like to keep water at my desk at work or near me at home. For me, the key is to have a cup or bottle you really like. What works for you really depends on your needs, but I personally LOVE my $3 reusable Starbucks tumbler. I know it is simple, but it works for me. I can have it at my desk, at home, in the car, or on the go. At 24 ounces I only have to refill a few times a day and I am good to go. Yes, it is sitting next to me right now, and yes, I did just drink some water.

A typical day for me starts with a 10 oz. glass of water from the tap a few minutes after I get up. At work I generally fill my 24 oz. cup twice, sometimes three times. I then drink 10 oz. of water at the sink before dinner, a glass with dinner and the at least one more “chug session” before bed.  No wonder I am in the bathroom so much. (Sorry) Try adding a glass of water at a few of these times if you’re still struggling with getting enough water.

I know a bunch of people carry water with them but still feel like they don’t drink enough. My only real tip for that is to double your sips. If you go in for one sip, take two. Keep going. You will start to get used to drinking more and it will become natural. Hate the taste of water? Check out this post I wrote about making easy infused water with the help of your freezer.

Below are a few water bottle/cup options you might like. The Starbucks one I have is only sold in stores.
water bottle options
1. Like your water cold? This one stays cold all day.
2. Here is a great option if you want glass.
3. Love S’well bottles? Go for it!
4. Want a visual of how much your drinking and when to drink it? Try a motivational bottle.
5. These are super cute. Go for the 24 oz.

Please note: These are affiliate links. If you make a purchase from the link I receive a small commission which helps fund this site.

Oh, and if you need more tips, this post from 2016 is pretty good.

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2019 Planner Lineup

December 28
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And now, the post you’ve all been waiting for…  (Ok, maybe three of you.) My 2019 planner lineup. Each year I like to sit down and reevaluate what I am using to ensure I am both getting the most bang for my buck as well as using products that really do help me. I don’t want to find myself wasting time trying to use more planners than I need or creating more work for myself. Here is what I came up with for this year:

 

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At home I will be using my DIY Happy Planner. I created this planner for myself when I didn’t love the other Happy Planner options. Read more about it here. I use this planner for all things home such as meal planning, activities, to-dos, my husband’s schedule and more.  This planner spends most of its time on my desk and is a daily reference and a great help through the week.

 

At work I use a Agendio planner housed in a Kikki binder. I love Agendio because they are completely customizable. Add whatever you want and have the planner start whenever you want. I created this custom planner to fit my needs with lots of space for notes and even an area to write down things for at home.  Read more about my experience with Agendio here.

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I keep my work planner at work to help separate my time and I love how this allows me to utilize two different planner styles. For many people one planner is enough, and I have done that in the past, however I really enjoy the work/home separation. For those of you who are self employed or work from home one planner might be enough for you.

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This year I will be using a digital calendar to help keep organized. I don’t like carrying a physical planner everywhere, but I do want to know important dates at a moment’s notice. I have started using Google Calendar which integrates perfectly for home, work, my iPhone, and Apple Watch.  This really helps when I want to jot down a date for a future event or appointment on the go. I have already utilized it a few times and was glad to have access to both my future plans as well as a place to add events. Keep an eye out for future posts about how I integrate this calendar into my planning system.

 

As I have mentioned here and there, I have started using PowerSheets by Lara Casey for goal planning. This is my first year using this system and I will share here about my experiences.  Although this is not as much of a “planner” I wanted to include it here as part of my lineup as it is a resource I will be using regularly.

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I know this is a lot of “stuff.” For most of you, one planner is enough but I feel that this setup really ends up being easier for me than one. Look at your life and see what you feel is good for you, everyone is different and needs really do vary. I know some people use even more planners based on their lives and howe they separate things. My goal is always to be as organized and efficient as possible and if additional planners make you less productive then it is time to find another system.

 

See how I use these this year b y following along on Instagram.

 

 

2019 Planner Guide

December 23
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Still looking for a planner for 2019? I’ve got you covered. Even though it is last minute, there are still tons of great planners out there, and even if you receive it after January 1st, it is fine, you can start planning any day.

First you need to decide what kind of planner you need. Most of my readers are interested in weekly and daily planners. Read a little bit about each of these here and then decide on what you feel is best for you.

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Weekly:

Weekly planners are great for people who like to plan out their week, see the entire week in one view, and mostly use their planner to to record appointments, events, meals, and some tasks. There is not a lot of space for notes, but you might not need notes in your planner. Like stickers? These planners are easy to decorate and super cute. See below for my favorite options for 2019.

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Daily:

Daily planners are great if you need a lot of space to write. Most daily planners have a section for your daily schedule to write down meetings and appointments as well as a section for notes or a long to-do list. One of the downsides of this planner format is that you don’t get to see the entire week in one view. Although you can for sure decorate a daily planner, most users are more focused on their to do list than stickers.

 

Have you decided on which one you need? Here are a few of my favorites for each:

 

Weekly:

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The Happy Planner is one of my favorite budget-friendly weekly planners. Grab one for 2019 here. One thing I love about this planner is that it uses the disc system so you can add, remove, and move pages at will. To see how I use mine click here.

Looking for something with a coil? The Erin Condren Life Planner is for you. This classic weekly planner is sturdy, bright, and super popular. Although these are a little more spending, you can get $10 off yours here.

Looking for something ASAP? I have created a list of weekly planners available on Amazon with two-day prime shipping. This list includes Moleskin and other brands. I have not used these planners, but they have good reviews.

 

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Daily:

One of my favorite daily planners come from Day Designer. These daily planners are coil-bound and super elegant. (Especially the marbled cover!) Their flagship line includes planners that will last the year and look great on your desk.

Looking for something a little more simple? Check out a Simplified flagship planner by Emily Ley. These planners are similar to the Day Designer but a little more simple and in some more fun prints. They also sell weekly planners that are bound like a book.

I am currently using a daily planner from Agendio. These planners are fully customizable so you can select when it begins and what sections are included. You can even add dates to a calendar so they are printed on the planner itself.  See more about mine here. Oh, and did I mention they can be bound, coiled, or sold as inserts? WIN

NOTE: These three brands sell weekly planners as well, so if you’re looking for a great week, check them out as well.

 

So I hope this little roundup has been helpful. If you have more questions or what to show off your choice, tag me in a photo on Instagram! I’m @amberdownsblog

 

Note: Affiliate links are in use on the post. I may receive a small commission for purchases made. This does not affect your price or my opinion of these items. 

 

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My 2019 home planner

December 16
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Note: Affiliate links are in use on this page. I have linked to Amazon whenever I can because their prices and 2 day shipping is great. I will receive a small commission from purchases made from these links but that will not affect your price. 

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Well friends, it is time to share my finished (for now) 2019 home planner. My home planner is what I use for my personal life and some blog information. I use this planner for meal planning, grocery lists, keeping my husband’s schedule, special events, and more. I like to think of this planner as a tool for keeping this part of my life sane. I also include important work events in this planner so that in the mornings I am ready for them before I leave the house.  This planner sits on my desk at home so I can glance at it in the morning as well as in the evening and do my best to keep on top of the crazy in life.

I have been using the Happy Planner for this use for several years now, but when the 2019 planners came out I was not in love with any of them. I was going to change to a different brand until I ran across the “Super Mom” planner layout. This non-traditional planner layout really made sense to me for my uses, but was filled with a ton of “mom stuff” that does not apply to me. I shared about that on Instagram and my followers informed me that there was a non-mom “dashboard layout” extension pack of this planner layout so I went and grabbed that up. Note to self, I need to go grab another one. 

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After I got the extension I realized that I could make this planner into a new form that really could work for me. I like to keep notes, plans, goals, and more in my planner so I might as well carve out a real space for them.

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So for this planner I created following sections:

I wanted this planner to look and feel classy and professional so I purchased silver metal discs and a black cover. Although a little more pricy, these pieces will hold up for the entire year and beyond. I still have my teal cover from a few years ago and it looks great. And of course, I always keep my punch around so I can add whatever pages I’d like to my planner.

I also grabbed these cute travel inserts and meal plan pages to incorporate into my weeks as needed. I used plastic dashboards as dividers for the sections as they are nice and sturdy and I liked the tabs on top.

Although 2019 has not even started, I have been gravitating to this new planner for note taking. I love that I now have a great place to write and store these notes for future use. I can for sure see that this planner will be an integral part of my 2019 and will look super classy sitting on my desk.

Have you picked your 2019 planner yet?

 

Note: Affilate links are in use on this page. I will receive a small commission on purchases.

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Powersheets by Lara Casey

December 10
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I have been aware of Lara Casey and her Powersheets for a few years now and have eyed them every year as they are released but I never bit the bullet and bought them. This year I Finally changed that.

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Powersheets are designed to help you realize your goals and then make them happen. Lara (Author of Make it Happen and Cultivate) guides you through a workbook that gets you to dig deep into your needs and desires. Once you have gone down to the core of your goals she then provides steps to guide you into creating action steps for getting these things from goals to action to done.

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Although the Powersheets look like a planner, they are really more of a guide and accessory to your planner. With weekly, monthly, and quarterly checkins to help you see where you are and gauge progres. I store my Powersheets on my desk within easy sight so that I access them regularly.

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Every Sunday I sit down and plan out the next week. This is a time where I go over schedules, meal plans, goals, and tasks. I will add time with my Powersheets to this weekly meeting with myself to check in on where I am at with my goals.

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I have not yet gone over the preliminary sheets in my Powersheets as I am waiting until mid-December, but I plan to take some time, grab some coffee, and really sit down and connect with myself and find my real goals and intentions. I will share again here about it once I find my goals. I may not share all of them as they will be personal, but I plan to share some as well as more about this process.  I truly hope that this investment helps me find the best in myself and to get the most of of my next year.

Powersheets are on sale now for 2019. Join me in making this the best year yet by being intentional with our goals.

Have you used Powersheets? What did you think of them?

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Please note: Affiliate links are in use on this page. If you purchase powersheets I will receive a small commission. This does not affect the price you pay and this helps fund running this site.  Thanks!

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DIY holiday centerpiece

December 2
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I was at my parent’s house the other day and my mother gave me a few antique kitchen items and one of the items that stuck out to me was this adorable pie tin. You never see pie plates like this anymore and when she gave it to me I knew I had to find a fun way to showcase it.

Fast forward a week and we were decorating our home for the holidays and I saw the pie tin again. It took it over to my dining table and realized it would make a great part of a centerpiece.

I also knew I wanted something a little bigger than the tin, so I took the round tray I was currently using and placed the tin in the tray. I used a few coasters to raise the tin a little higher to give the centerpiece some, but not too much height. You wanna be able to see the person sitting across from you, right?

I added a set of three candles I already owned the middle as they work great in this space. Once I had my base I added some greenery. I found these sprigs with my holiday decor so I went with them. I wouldn’t mind something less glittery, but I am just going to go with the stuff I already have as it is here and simple. I then added a few sprigs of holly berries and some decorative cinnamon sticks and that is it!

This centerpiece was super simple and made from the pie tin plus stuff I just had around the house. I love thinking a little out of the box and creating like this with things I already have. Hopefully this post can inspire you to look around your home and see what you can use to create your own centerpiece or holiday decor.  If you create something, please tag me in a photo, I’d love to see it! I’m on facebook  @_amberdowns on Instagram.

 

 

DIY farmhouse centerpiece from a vintage pie tin. perfect holiday farm decor for your table.

Diy farmhouse centerpiece

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DIY Popcorn Garland

November 30
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We’re very in to Christmas decorating around here. It is not just me, my husband is 100% in on it too. We love to transform out home in to a holiday escape. In general, most of the decor decisions around here are made by me, but when it comes to the holidays, Charlie likes to have a little more input. So back in October, I asked him what he thought of doing a homemade popcorn garland instead of our usual beads and he seemed interested in the idea, but neither of us did anything about it. Fast forward to the day after Thanksgiving, our traditional decorating day, and as we’re starting to get the tree going, he asks me about the garland. I had forgotten about it until then, but when I saw he was interested I went over to the kitchen, popped some corn, and we went for it. I was lucky that we always make our popcorn from the kernel instead of the bag, so we had plenty on hand. I also had some leftover cranberries just waiting to be used.  So here you have it, our popcorn garland!

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This popcorn garland is super easy to make. In fact, my husband and I whipped it together for our seven foot tree in about an hour.

Supplies:

Note: Popcorn should be plain and free of and butter or oil. We used plain kernels and popped them in our Air Popper. (We LOVE this thing and it is totally worth it if you eat a lot of popcorn.) Day old popcorn will be a little more rubbery and will work better, but we used fresh and it was fine. 

To start grab your needle and thread and make your line. I doubled the thread and knotted it at the bottom to make a thicker garland. We made each of ours approx. 10 feet in length so that it wrapped around well, but wasn’t too long.

Now it is time to start threading the popcorn and cranberries on the line. We did a pattern of five popcorn kernels and then one cranberry, but feel free to experiment with what is best for you. You can even skip the cranberries completely if you’d like. If you find mushy cranberries toss them out.

Keep going until you get to the end. When I get there I used a cranberry at the end and then cut the needle off. I then pulled out of the strings out of the cranberry and tied them together so that the cranberry was a part of the knot.

After we had made out strands we just wrapped them around the tree so that the ends were in the back. Super easy!

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If you wanted to save the garland you could spray it garland with shellac. We skipped this part as I don’t plan on keeping this one; we will just cut it and add it to our compost.

Well there you go, that is how we made this charming garland for our tree. I am honestly surprised it is not more popular of an option with “farmhouse” and “rustic” being so in right now. But hey, more popcorn for me.

Christmas tree diy popcorn and cranberry garland. Perfect for your farmhouse Christmas tree and vintage holiday

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My favorite gifts on Amazon

November 28
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I love Amazon for gifting. I always wait to grab something at the last minute, so with two-day shipping I can get gifts just in the nick of time. Today I am sharing a few of my giftable favorites from Amazon that are perfect for your or a loved one.  Click the link to be directed to my Amazon page where you can see m favorites and what I like about each item.

 

Happy Gifting!

 


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Find these items, as well as my other Amazon favorites here.

 

 

Amazon.con Holiday gift ideas

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